On Staying Home More as a Stay at Home Mom

You would think that being a stay at home mom would mean you’re at home all the time.  This is often not the case though and I recently found myself spending less and less time at home.

At night, I would start to get a slightly panicky feeling if we had nothing planned for the next day, and try to think of something we could go do together.

I think this happened for a couple of reasons.  James has gotten to an age where it’s really easy to take him out and about.  He is also awake for much longer stretches of time now and I think it can be daunting to think about three hours at home with nothing to “entertain” the little one.

Also, while I used to largely sit back and watch James play fairly independently, I had gotten out of the habit of doing this when he started pulling up to stand.  I was a little bit terrified when he started pulling up because he would just let go and fall straight backwards and hit his head.  So I followed him around constantly.  While this may have been necessary for a week or so, it is certainly not necessary any more.  He’s super capable of coming down gently and intentionally now and rarely falls.  When he does fall, he almost always catches himself with his hands.  I just needed to retrain myself to take a step back again and let him be.

I started reading Your Self-Confident Baby, by Magda Gerber, because I was curious about the RIE philosophy and how it was similar to / different from Montessori.  I am loving the book and it really reminded me that 1) children need long, uninterrupted periods of time to play and 2) to interfere as little as possible when a child is playing / working on something.

These two things are definitely emphasized in Montessori as well, I just needed a reminder.

So last week, I took a step back.  And we were both so much happier.  I chose a spot to sit in the room and let him play without hovering to make sure he didn’t fall.  He played happily and periodically came over to check in with me.  He would usually come over very briefly and climb up on me for a hug before zooming off again.  Sometimes he would choose a book for me to read him before continuing on his own.  It was so fun and interesting to watch him play.

I also realized, while it seemed like James was getting “bored” playing in his room or playroom for a long stretch of time, I think this was really “false fatigue”.

False fatigue is a term we used to describe how the children behaved late in the work period at school.  In a Montessori classroom, the children have three-hour long work periods where they choose work independently.  Often around 10 AM or so, some of the children would start to act a little bit crazy and would stop working.  They would wander around aimlessly chatting with other children and getting silly.  It would seem as if they were done for the morning.  In reality, they were a little fatigued from all of their hard work and needed a little help settling back in.  After connecting briefly with a teacher, many of the children would settle back in to do some great work.  I’ve seen the same thing with James.

He will start “rage crawling” as we call it around the room, not choosing anything and grunting or whining.  It will seem as if he’s totally over playing in that room.  I’ve found that I can often help him settle back into playing by connecting with him.  First, I just talk to him about what I’m seeing, what he may be feeling, and some things I see that he may enjoy doing.

I also find it helps if I put all of his toys back on the shelf where they go.  Since he doesn’t yet restore his own toys, the room is a mess after a while.  I think it becomes visual clutter to him when everything is on the floor and it’s as if he can no longer see anything interesting to work with.  As soon as I put the toys away, he often sees something that strikes his interest.

If that doesn’t work, I’ll read him a couple of books or sing a couple of songs with him and then help him get started playing with something, before backing away and letting him play on his own.

These things usually work really well, unless it’s late in the day, at which point he just may be too fatigued to be as independent as he is most of the time.  At that point, I’ll continue reading books with him or singing songs as long as he enjoys doing it, or take him outside for a change of scenery.

When he is playing happily on his own, I try to really observe him, which is a big part of Montessori as well as RIE.  Honestly though, I don’t find myself able (at this point at least) to just sit and observe him all morning.  So I also bring a book or a notebook and read or write after observing him for a while.  I find that if I have nothing else to do, I often wind up jumping in when he doesn’t need my help.

I alternate observing him with reading or writing, and always put down my book as soon as he comes over to me.  I choose a book because I at least think that it’s beneficial to model reading and writing, rather than being on my phone.  I think that seeing adults read helps children want to read, as they want to do everything we do.  I hope that, with practice, I’ll be able to observe him for longer stretches of time.

While this is just a change in outlook, it has seriously made such a difference in our days.  I enjoy being with him at home so much more, and I no longer feel like we have to have something to go do every day.

I also believe that a baby is part of the family and that involves compromise.  So if I’m going crazy being in the house, I will take him for a walk in the stroller, which he seems pretty neutral about, but I really enjoy.  I try though to make sure he has some free time to play in every block of “awake time” throughout the day, and that he has at least one really long stretch of time every day to play freely.  So far, so good!

Do you like being home a lot or being out and about more?

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  1. Typically I prefer being at home to going out and doing things, but I know that when I was nannying I was the same way as you – loved to have an activity for myself and the kids to get out of the house and do. I assume when I have children that I will want to go out more!

    1. I was always a home body too and then I think I started to feel a litle bit trapped as I adjusted to getting out of the house with a new baby. Now I’m going back to being a home boday though lol 🙂

  2. Great post! I didn’t know much about Montessori before I started reading your blog and it’s so interesting! We are definitely homebodies. I work from home full time so have a nanny M-F. My office and the nursery are both upstairs so my now 2-year old has always played in his room during the day. He helps with clean up of toys before lunch, before nap, at the end of my workday, and before bed. He definitely gets that false fatigue you described! He is in his room from 8:30-11:30 between breakfast and lunch which is his longest stretch on weekdays. When the false fatigue kicks in he really responds to story time, with him being read to and interacting less with the book. That seems to reset him for another play period. He will pick things on his own to do, but I also find he does really well if we direct him toward activities. I will sometimes turn on a podcast to listen to while he plays, I just make sure it’s not one with bad language. With the baby now we get out even less on the weekends and I worry sometimes my 2-year old is missing out. I try to do a play date for him around once a month and we get out for walks in our neighborhood or up to the neighborhood pool. There’s so many things on my radar to do though! Splash pads, the aquarium, and he always loves going to the bookstore! It’s easy to get caught up in the baby routine of napping along with house cleaning and then the weekend is just gone. Thanks for the book suggestion too!

    1. I imagine it would be both wonderful and really hard to work from home with your little ones nearby! That’s awesome that he has a three hour stretch every day to play in his room. I bet that’s great for building his concentration / attention span. It took me months to be able to get out of the house regularly with one baby…I can’t imagine how hard it is with two little ones, especially with different nap schedules! I know what you mean though, I think it’s definitely a balance between not rushing around and exposing them to cool stuff. My son loves the splash pad and LOVES Barnes and Noble. For some reason, it is like his favorite place in the world, I think because we let him just crawl around the kids section and there are lots of pretty things to look at. Thanks for reading!

  3. Great idea! Lately I’ve been having to force myself to get out of the house while I’m on my leave. Now that my body is feeling more healed, I’ve been trying to get out a little bit each day or at least sit out on my balcony. It makes a big difference!

    1. It was SO hard for me to get out of the house right after I had James. It took me a while to figure out his rhythms and when the best times were to take him on a walk, etc. Plus, he took FOREVER to nurse when he was an infant so it was often almost time for him to sleep again by the time he was done. Siting on the balcony is a great idea to at least get some sunshine!

    1. I used to be a total home body, then I think I started feeling trapped when I had a little baby at home and wanted to get out! Now I’m back to being a home body lol 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  4. I worked until my son was 13 months and now I stay home with him! I LOVE it! I love not only being with him and influencing him but being able to better serve my husband. We do try to get out to library time and 2 play dates a week. I think it is good for both of us to get out. Plus I really want him to be around other kids.

    1. That’s awesome that you’re loving staying home! I love having play dates too because I feel like we both enjoy it, I get to talk to moms and James gets to explore! I’m mainly trying to do fewer things where he’s cooped up or in the stroller or carrier for a long time. I agree, I thnk it’s good to be around other kids and get that social exposure, especially for little ones who aren’t in day care / school. Thanks for reading!

  5. I read the self-confident baby book a few months ago and loved it! It makes so much sense to me. I actually flop back and forth between enjoying being out and wanting to just stay home. Liam is in agreement on that one. I tend to register for activities at the library and then, on the day, decide how we both are feeling. It’s been great to ask him, “hey, there is a music class at the library, do you want to go?” If he says, “no thanks.” I just cancel our reservation and everyone is happy! Even though I’ve confessed how much I enjoy playing/teaching Liam, he sometimes just wants to be at home and playing with his toys by himself. I respect his decision MOST of the time but sometimes, if we have to go grocery shopping for example, I don’t offer him a choice. It’s definitely important to find the balance between letting kids explore and play at home and the reality that sometimes, you have to go out to accomplish a task. Keep the awesome posts coming!!

    1. I totally agree, it is definitely a balance. We go grocery shopping every Monday and it’s not a choice. Yes, I could go on the weekend and leave James home with Dad, but I’d rather spend our weekends doing fun family things and I agree that it’s important to compromise. That’s awesome that you give Liam a choice about the library activities! I’d love to do that when James is old enough to tell me what he wants to do. We don’t have to reserve spots at our library, so it’s generally a game time decision depending on his naps / mood (and my mood lol). Thanks for reading!!

  6. An amazing Montessori infant guide I once new, Laura, told me about Your Self Confident Baby. I am curious about the similarities between Montessori and RIE too, especially since I started listening to Janet Lansbury’s podcast, Unruffled.

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